PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Pepperidge Farm, Inc. says it will cut the sodium levels in the majority its breads, rolls and bagels by 2011, making it the latest of many food makers to respond to demands for healthier products.
The company, owned by Campbell Soup Co., said the reductions will ultimately result in sodium levels 10 to 33 percent lower in 69 of its U.S. bakery products.
Health experts say Americans eat too much salt and the vast majority is from processed food. That excess is dangerous because sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, kidney disease, heart disease or heart failure.
The issue has become so pressing that the Institute of Medicine issued a report in April that urged the federal government to limit salt allowed in food.
Pepperidge Farm said it has already begun some of the reductions, such as cutting sodium in its original white bread from 225 milligrams per slice to 150 milligrams last year.
Based on positive response to those changes and growing consumer demand, the company said it decided to aim to lower sodium levels 80 percent of its products by February 2011.
"We would like to think we were involved in reducing sodium before it was fashionable," said Bibi Wu, business director for Pepperidge Farm Fresh Bakery.
A number of food makers have announced recently that they are lowering sodium in their products based on consumer demand and increasing scrutiny by health groups. Bumble Bee Foods, General Mills Inc., PepsiCo Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc. all announced sodium reductions to their products in this spring alone.
Campbell has been cutting sodium for years. It makes more than 200 reduced-sodium products, an eight-fold increase compared to just five years ago, when the company offered 25.
Lowering sodium levels in canned soup, notoriously high in salt, is one thing. Doing the same in the bakery was a notable achievement, given that complex role salt plays in bread — affecting flavor, texture, shelf life and interacting with the yeast that helps it rise.
"Neither one is easy," said David Smith, vice president of research and development and quality assurance for Pepperidge Farm. "It's very complex."
The company said it relied on the move to sea salt, which Campbell used in its soups, to help make the transition.